‘Phenomenal achievement’: Djokovic stunned by return to top spot

Djokovic 'Rafael Nadal's defensive skills are the best. While Federer...'

The Spaniard has pulled out of the Paris event because of an abdominal injury, the BBC reports, and is unsure if he will play in the season finale in London from 11-18 November.

Nadal's withdrawal is set to send Novak Djokovic back to the top spot in the upcoming ATP rankings for the first time in two years.

Nadal says he felt abdominal pain "especially" while serving and "the doctor says that is recommended to not play, because if I continue the abdominal maybe can break and can be a major thing". "I prefer not to play".

The Austrian will next face a rejuvenated Jack Sock after the defending champion, who has endured a dramatic slump in the year since, outplayed Tunisian lucky loser Malek Jaziri 6-0 6-4 to win back-to-back matches for the first time in 2018.

"It's been a hard year for me in terms of injuries, and so I'd prefer to avoid doing anything drastic", Nadal told the media minutes before his intended match against compatriot Fernando Verdasco.

Djokovic, looking in much sharper form than his opening match against Joao Sousa, took the set in 39 minutes.

After Federer had been stunned by John Millman and Nadal had fallen victim to a knee injury in a semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro, Djokovic ruthlessly overcame the Argentine 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-3. "With my performance today I gave myself the best present I good ask for for tomorrow".

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Calling a halt in play, Djokovic went over to the struggling fan while gesturing to the umpire, as Sousa also held up his racket in a signal to stop. "And, of course, I'm very, very happy and proud about it", Djokovic told reporters.

Federer is coming in hot after winning his 99th career title, in Basel last week.

Later Thursday, Roger Federer was facing Fabio Fognini.

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev beat Frances Tiafoe 6-4, 6-4.

Having suffered a shock defeat to Marco Cecchinato in the quarter-finals of the previous month's French Open, Djokovic looked back to his brilliant best on Centre Court.

World number 57 Herbert was beaten by Kazakhstan's Mikail Kukushkin in three sets (3-6, 6-3, 7-5) while Jeremy Chardy, ranked 40th, lost 6-4, 6-4 to Spain's Fernando Verdasco.

Meanwhile, fifth seed Marin Cilic cruised into the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber.

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